[cifnmedia] Rossville in flames(Multi-alarm fire)

Here is the Article on the fire CIFN*125 paged out.

Rossville in flames 

 
     By NOELLE MCGEE
© 2004 THE NEWS-GAZETTE
Published Online February 28, 2004



CLICK TO SEE PHOTO  
   ROSSVILLE – A fire broke out in Rossville's downtown business district on 
Friday night, destroying several historic buildings and many of the antique 
galleries and gift boutiques for which the village is known.
   "It's heartbreaking," Rossville resident Natalie Potter said as she, her 
mother – with tears in her eyes – and scores of onlookers watched the blaze 
rip through the buildings and light up the night sky. "There goes a fourth of 
our town."
   Rossville Police Chief Danny Danner said the fire broke out in a building in 
the 100 block of South Chicago Street shortly after 7 p.m. and quickly spread 
north, destroying at least 10 businesses. The fire was still raging at 11 p.m., 
and fire crews were expected to work throughout the night.
   Danner said local and state fire officials would be called in to investigate 
the cause of the blaze.
   "We think it might have broken out in a pizza place," he said, referring to 
the Royal Line Pizza Place. Owner Jessica Morrison, who lives in the Lafayette, 
Ind., area, opened the restaurant just four months ago.
   Danner said the restaurant was most likely open when the fire broke out. But 
he hadn't heard of any injuries by late Friday night, so he believed anyone 
there must have gotten out.
   Authorities quickly evacuated all the buildings in the downtown and in a 
two-block area in each direction. Some of the buildings housed businesses, such 
as taverns, that were still open and apartments that were occupied.
   "We want everyone out of this area except for emergency personnel," Danner 
said.
   Within two hours, the blaze had spread through most of the buildings on the 
west side of the block.
   "Some of these buildings are at least 100 years old," Danner said. "The fire 
got up in those rafters, and it's impossible to knock it down."
   "There's not a lot we can do at this point but just contain it," said Bob 
Ray, a firefighter with the Rossville Area Fire Protection District, who was 
watching the action from the fire station across Attica Street.
   Firefighters from more than 15 departments helped fight the blaze.
   "Basically about every truck that can haul water in the county is here, and 
out of the county," Ray said, pointing to trucks from Rantoul and Royal-Ogden 
that had just rolled in. 
   Frontline crews, including Danville firefighters on the city's 100-foot 
aerial ladder truck, attacked the fire with hoses, while others set up portable 
water holding tanks nearby. Other crews took turns filling the tanks with water 
they hauled in from out of town.
   "You can't get enough water from the water tower with seven or eight trucks 
pumping," Ray explained.
   Around 10:30 p.m., authorities set up a shelter in a nearby church for 
firefighters and other emergency personnel and for people who were displaced 
from their homes. Red Cross volunteers brought in drinking water and other 
supplies.
   Two blocks away, a crowd stood huddled together in the cold – some hugging 
each other, others softly crying – watching what they called an unbelievable 
sight.
   "I'm watching my town burn down," Judy Rayfield said softly as she shivered 
in the cold.
   "It's Rossville," Andrea Atwood added. "This doesn't happen here."
   Potter and her mother, Jacquie Potter, watched the fire move farther north, 
getting precariously close to a Chicago Street building across Attica Street, 
where Jacquie Potter and Rayfield own a beauty salon.
   "I thought we were perfectly safe, but then we saw the sparks jump across," 
Rayfield said, trying to remain confident that the fire would be contained in 
time. "We realized nothing's really safe."
   Rayfield worried about her friends, for whom it was already too late. "All 
of those antiques are gone," she said, ticking off the many antique shops – 
including The Market Place, Country Way Gifts and Things, and Heritage House, 
which housed several shops – which drew visitors from all over the state. 
   "Naomi Freeman owns Freeman's Follies. It's her home, and it's her business. 
She's lost everything she had."
   Ray said this is the third fire in the downtown in the 19 years he has lived 
in Rossville. "But this is by far the worse," he said, adding he's saddened 
because he knows all of the merchants and employees who work there.
   "And it's an old historic part of the town," he said. "You can't replace it."
   
You can reach Noelle McGee at (217)443-8487 or via e-mail at 
nmcgee@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
 



Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network
cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
www.geocities.com/central_illinois_firenet


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